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Cambodia: Update- Trade union leader and human rights defender Mr Rong Chhun questioned in court regarding incitement and defamation charges
On 27 September 2012, trade union leader and human rights defender Mr Rong Chhun was questioned in Kandal Provincial Court because of accusations of incitement and defamation made against him.
Mr Rong Chhun is the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, which represents over 90,000 Cambodian workers altogether and strives to improve workers' rights in Cambodia.
In a three-hour session, the human rights defender was questioned by the Kandal deputy prosecutor about his role in a two-month long strike at Tai Yang Enterprises which began on 25 June this year. The accusations stem from the leadership of the enterprise, specifically its director-general Mr Jack Liu, who have accused Rong Chhun of having incited the workforce at Tai Yang Enterprises to a strike. Rong Chhun maintains that his role in the industrial conflict only started after he received a letter from workers at the garment factory requesting his help.
The human rights defender has also been accused of making comments during the strike which allegedly were defamatory against the company and its management. The accusations are made with reference to article 305 of the Cambodian Penal Code, dealing with criminal defamation. This law is among several that have been criticised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression as placing unjustifiable restrictions on freedom of expression in Cambodia.
The summons and court questioning on 27 September follows a previous hearing regarding the same case that took place in August this year. Rong Chhun has neither been presented with charges nor been detained after the court case, and the human rights defender and his team are satisfied no intimidation tactics were used during the questioning. Kandal Provincial court is currently deciding on a future date to continue questioning Rong Chhun.
Rong Chhun has previously been the subject of a Front Line Defenders Urgent Appeal, dated 5 September 2012.